Why Kohl win doesn't let US off arms-control hook
In the wake of West Germany's elections, the Reagan administration is giving new top-level consideration to arms control, according to officials here. Despite their satisfaction with the election outcome in West Germany, administration officials are convinced that a major effort must continue to be made to convince West Europeans, and the Germans in particular, that the administration is serious about arms control.
This could - over the next few weeks or months - produce a new statement by President Reagan and possibly a new proposal to the Soviet Union on reducing European-based intermediate-range nuclear missiles.
A State Department official said that the feeling among specialists in the department was one of relief rather than triumph over the West German elections. Relief, he said, because had the election gone the other way and put the opposition Social Democrats in power instead of Helmut Kohl's Christian Democrats, it would have produced greater uncertainties in the Western alliance.
It would have made it less certain, first of all, that the West Germans would agree to go ahead with the deployment of new American nuclear missiles in Europe , a deployment the Reagan administration regards as essential if the Soviets are to be induced to make arms control compromises.
Mixed with the feeling of relief is a conviction on the part of officials here that there is still strong support, throughout the West German electorate, for arms control. There is still a danger, officials say, that Social Democratic opponents of the center-right government which won victory in the election will become ''radicalized.''
''It's still a complicated situation,'' said a State Department official. ''We still have to work to make sure the whole thing doesn't move in a radical direction.''
But the official adds, ''There is no reason why we can't convince the vast majority of German people that we are serious about arms control. We want to keep people out of the streets.''
Stanley Hoffmann, an expert on Western Europe at Harvard University, said that regardless of the German election outcome, West European leaders will press the Reagan administration to produce a new proposal for an interim agreement on medium-range nuclear missiles which would fall short of President Reagan's zero-option proposal.
This in turn might bring to the surface unresolved differences between the State and Defense Departments over how far to go in retreating from the zero-option. That proposal calls on the Soviets to dismantle all of their medium-range missiles targeted on Western Europe in return for an American agreement not to deploy new missiles in Western Europe.
Professor Hoffmann, who was in the Soviet Union a few weeks ago for a conference of international relations specialists, said he thought that despite a West German election outcome which undoubtedly displeased the Soviets, the Soviets may be reluctant to enter an arms control agreement with the Reagan administration.
''I'm not sure the Soviets are keen to give Ronald Reagan an arms control agreement and facilitate his reelection,'' said Hoffmann. ''My guess is they'll wait. . . . They can still hope that if we start deploying missiles, it will create turmoil in Western Europe.''
A State Department specialist on Europe disagreed with this assessment, arguing that the Christian Democrats' election victory in West Germany has improved the chances that the Soviets will move toward a compromise in the US-Soviet talks being held on medium-range missiles in Geneva.
''I think that what we have predicted is what is going to happen,'' the official said. ''I think the Soviets will get serious within the next few months. They really do not want us to deploy those missiles.''
The official said Soviet officials had informed their American counterparts they were convinced that without an arms control agreement, the planned deployment of new US missiles in Europe would go forward. This is the impact which the Americans have long been striving for.
Pressure on the Reagan administration from Europe for a new arms control agreement is likely to be accompanied, meanwhile, by pressure from within the US as well.
A new national survey of American public opinion published March 7 indicates that American public support for increased defense spending has dropped substantially over the past four years and that peace and arms control have become higher priorities. The survey, prepared by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, showed that 77 percent of the public favors negotiating arms control agreements.